There could not be a more fitting Memorial Day tale than that of Cpl. Thomas “Cotton” Jones and the woman he left behind when he marched off to war. The story, the AP reports, was set in the Pacific theater during the Second World War.
It was there in 1944 that Cpl. Jones made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Before he was felled by a Japanese sniper’s bullet, he inscribed in his diary what he termed a “last life request” to whomever might find the book — that it be returned to Laura Mae Davis, the girl he loved.
Davis did get to read the diary — but not until nearly 70 years after that inscription was entered into it. And it was not returned to her per se. Rather, she saw the inscription penned by her high school sweetheart echoing across time through a layer of glass: The diary was in a display case at the National World War II Museum.
“I didn’t have any idea there was a diary in there,” said Davis, now 90, adding that it brought tears to her eyes. She had made the trip from her home in Mooresville, Ind., to the museum in New Orleans hoping to find a display commemorating the young Marine. “I figured I’d see pictures of him and the fellows he’d served with and articles about where he served,” she said.
Instead there, on the other side of the glass, was the diary of the 22-year-old machine gunner. Davis was stunned. The small leather-bound book had been a gift to Jones from Davis. They had met in the class of ’41 at Winslow High School. “He was a basketball player and I was a cheerleader,” she said.
Jones made his first diary entry while a private at Camp Elliott in San Diego. In it he wrote:
[This is] my life history of my days in the U.S. Marine Corps … And most of all my love for Laura Mae for whom my heart is completely filled. So if you all get a chance please return it to her. I [am] writing this as my last life request.
The 4-by-7-inch diary’s back inside cover was graced by a sepia-toned photo of Davis that had been retouched by the photographer so that the cheeks appeared pink, the lips dark red. The photo was signed simply, “Love, Laurie.”